The sound of music is definitely a personal thing.
People have favorite sounds and enjoy listening to different kinds of music:
So, a piece talking about the best inexpensive studio monitors is always going to be subjective.
It’s going to depend not just on price:
What you want to use the monitors for?
You may be looking for the best studio monitors under $500 for EDM, or the best studio monitors for hip hop, or for any number of genres of music.
The list below is of some of the best powered speakers under $500 but also takes into account the different reasons you may have for purchasing them.
All of the studio monitors mentioned below are worthy of your consideration.
All are under $500 but each one is unique. If you’re looking for a new pair of studio monitors then make sure you take a look.
Top 5 Best Studio Monitors under $500 (Updated 2018)
#5: Edifier S2000
If you’re looking for the best studio monitors under $400; the Edifier S2000 should definitely be worthy of consideration.
Speakers that would fit seamlessly into any home theatre set up, as well as into a studio, these monitors give you classic style blended with the latest technology.
Honestly these are elegant speakers presented in a stylish and real wood cabinet.
The diaphragm is flat, giving you a fast response rate and the ability to take advantage of higher frequency sound.
A unique and crispy clear sound is provided by the aluminum made woofers.
The back panel on the S2000 is dedicated to the controls and inputs.
RCA and RCA to AUX connections are catered for and HD is achievable through the coaxial or optical connections.
XLR is also available, which lets you connect the monitors to a mixer for when you want to take your audio to the next level.
The connecting cable between the two monitors is five metres in length.
This monitor set up comes complete with a handy wireless remote control. This lets you control the volume, switch between inputs, choose your preferred EQ mode as well as many other things.
These monitors are universal and have many uses in your home or studio, hence the ability to switch between different EQ settings to ensure you are getting the highest quality sound.
The Vocal settings is what you need when performing, the Monitor setting works great for electronic music, the Classic setting is perfect for classical music and the Dynamic setting is what you need if you’re watching movies or playing a game.
#4: Presonus Eris E8
The Presonus Eris E8 monitors should be high on your list if you are looking for the best near-field monitors for mixing, especially since they are monitors made by a company well known for its quality mixers.
The Presonus Eris is a powered monitor, which is ideal as an entry-level unit for projects at home or in a small studio.
It is a near field monitor, quite a large one but it looks particularly stylish.
The cabinet is made from MDF, laminated in black vinyl, indeed the whole monitor is black; except for a blue hue on the low frequency driver’s cone.
The E8 is a bi-amped monitor, 75 watts drives the 8-inch low frequency transducer whilst 65 watts takes care of the 1.25 inch tweeter.
The controls and the connections can all be found on the rear of the monitors, here you have the choice of balanced TRS jack or unbalanced RCS sockets as well as XLR.
There is a three-position ‘Acoustic Space’ switch, which perfectly adjusts the base response if you have no choice but to place your monitors next to a wall or in the corner of a room. This is a filter that simply cuts the level of frequencies.
Similarly, if you want to tweak the bottom end you use the ‘Low Cut Off' switch, giving you a low frequency roll off.
This is particularly handy if you are considering adding a sub woofer to the system.
Note: You need to buy 2 units of this speaker as they are sold as Single Units
If you think that these speakers are just the best mini monitor speakers on the market; then you’re not entirely correct.
They may be small; but they can pull off so much more, easily competing against all of the larger monitors featured on this list.
KRK Systems, in case you’ve not come across them before, are one of the world’s most trusted and respected makers of studio monitors.
KRK are known for bringing out speakers that have a high quality, natural response, superior imaging and an unrivalled low level of distortion.
As the recording engineer’s choice of monitor, it’s no surprise that the Rocket 6 G3 powered studio monitors give you a professional performance and amazing recording, mixing and playback accuracy.
Its 1-inch soft dome tweeter, along with a 6-inch glass Aramid woofer, make up the innards of the monitors. This allows it to deliver both high frequency and an extended bass response.
The high frequency is easily adjusted; so you are able to tailor the system to fit in with your general taste or the requirements in hand.
For example, setting the units to the low frequency can help to fit in with the general room acoustics.
With such high tech kit on the inside, you need a cabinet on the outside that is going to do it justice.
The cabinet has been designed to be low resonance; this minimizes distortion and limits colorization.
There’s a foam pad, which has been installed at the base of the monitors to ensure there is a buffer between the monitors and the surface on which they are sitting.
#2: JBL Pro LSR308
These are big monitors, whereas most of the monitors in this list are suitable for use on a desktop in a home studio these are not.
So if you’re looking for the best 8 inch studio monitors or other compact offerings, then the first thing to say is that these are not for you.
Other than the large size, however, these are another quality set of monitors.
The tweeter is based on a waveguide design, using a small, button-like magnet soft dome and not a compression driver.
As far as waveguide designs go, this is pretty big, which gives you far greater control at the lower frequency end.
The 8-inch woofer is made out of a polymer-coated aluminum surrounded by rubber, it isn’t overly stiff but feels like it has been built to last.
The amp is a Class D model, which gives you an equal split of 56 watts each for the tweeter and woofer.
The cabinet is a fairly basic box, if you’re looking for a modern concept design then be aware that in terms of design, these monitors have gone for minimalist.
The cabinet covers all areas except the front and back in a fairly thick MDF material but doesn't have any further bracing material inside.
If you need to mount these speakers near to walls or the corners of rooms there is a -2dB switch at the back in order to reduce the bass response.
Note: You need to buy 2 units of this speaker as they are sold as Single Units
#1: Yamaha HS5
If you are in the market for smaller sized monitors; then the HS5 may be the ones you are looking for.
Remember that small monitors needn’t be cheap monitors, even professional engineers appreciate that small near field monitors provide an important function during mixing.
These monitors measure 6.7 x 11.25 x 8.75 inches and weigh just 11.7 pounds, meaning that they are ideal for the small home studio or office.
Even if you have the speakers placed near to a wall, the room control filters will compensate, allowing you to avoid the murky low frequency response you may otherwise get.
The woofer is 5-inches and the dome tweeter is 1-inch and they are bi-amplified, producing a sound that belies the small stature of the speakers.
Alternate inputs are provided by the balanced XLR and TRS connectors, with the TRS being able to take signals that are unbalanced too. Unfortunately the XLR connector doesn’t latch.
The frequency response produced by this monitor is between 74 Hz and 24000 Hz.
This means that you may need to add a subwoofer to your set up if you are looking to mix bass instruments alongside other higher up voices.
The standout area for these monitors is the upper bass, which remains tight at all times and the low mid range production, which always has an open sound and feel.
This is also a monitor that sounds amazingly clear, losing none of its quality, even when placed on a shelf.
Things to Consider When Buying Studio Monitors under $500
1. Far-Field, Mid or Near
This basically signifies the listening configuration, which the studio monitors have been set up for.
A studio monitor which has been set up for far field allows you to listen to accurate playback from much further away than a near field monitor, which is probably better suited for use in ‘bedroom recording’ situations.
In the majority of situations, most people will be looking for the best near field monitors.
Near field monitors give you far greater accuracy when monitoring sound, ensuring that you are not distracted by other sounds which could be occurring in the room.For example, a poorly constructed cabinet will lead to poor quality feedback, regardless of the quality of the driver and circuits.
2. Monitor Wattage
This is linked very closely with the listening configuration that you require.
If you are working in a recording studio or a large room, where you are far away from the monitors then you will need to opt for a far higher wattage.
If you are working in a home office or a small bedroom then wattage between ten and sixty is going to be fine for your needs.
3. THD (Total Harmonic Distortion)
This setting gives you an idea of how accurate the monitors are going to be.
The monitors are reproducing audio that you are creating, but exactly how accurately are they presenting it?
You may see this rating with an ’N’ on the end, i.e. THD plus Noise (N).
The circuits in a studio monitor cause noise when they are functioning but it is crucial to know how much.
Even the best budget studio monitors should be producing as little noise and distortion as possible, you should always be looking for the THD + N to be close to zero.
4. Range of Frequency
Your studio monitors should handle whatever you need them for regardless of the frequency.
In order to ensure that you are getting the most accurate feedback; you should be looking at monitors that cover the widest range of frequency.
Hertz (Hz) is the indicator for the lowest frequency that a monitor can function at.
If you are considering the highest frequency, then this figure will be displayed in kilohertz (kHz).
Most recording work can be accurately undertaken using monitors that can cover a range from 50 Hz to 20 kHz.
The THD, or the monitors’ ability to reproduce sound without noise and distortion, should always be a far higher consideration than the frequency range.
This refers to the quality of the components used to put together your studio monitor.
What is the make up of these components and has your monitor been built to last.
Although the monitors featured below are examples of some of the best studio monitors on a budget, we have still ensured that they are all of a high standard of quality.
Generally, monitors are made up of three distinct parts:
The drivers, the circuits and finally the cabinet in which they are all enclosed.
If the monitor is powered then an amplifier will also be included.
The accuracy of the feedback your monitor is able to produce has a direct correlation to the quality of the components used to build it.
Buying a set of monitors can be difficult, whether it is your first set or whether you’re a seasoned engineer buying yet another set.
If you are an amateur then the difficulty is increased as you may not be used to the flat response curve that a monitor produces, the thing that makes it different to a traditional speaker.
Before choosing your monitor, ensure that you are experienced enough to hear sound in a slightly different way.
The features that each set of monitors have and the overall specifications of each model are significant, the set of monitors you choose will depend greatly on what you intend to use them for.
The accuracy at which your monitors reproduce the sound you are making in your studio is what is most important, features such as ‘bass boost’ that appear on traditional speakers become far less relevant.
This list of the best stereo speakers under $500 has been put together to make it easier to make that choice.
Once you are familiar with what you need to be looking out for, the choice becomes far easier.